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7 Lessons from SMCP’s Isabelle Guichot on successfully managing a business

By Florence Julienne


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Credits: Isabelle Guichot, SMCP

At Fashion Reboot 2023, organised by the IFM, Isabelle Guichot, managing director of luxury conglomerate SMCP, which owns Sandro, Maje, Claudie Pierlot and Fursac, offered fashion professionals seven lessons on how to "manage a fashion company in times of disruption and uncertainty".

Lesson no. 1: Adapt collection architecture, simplify merchandising, protect margins

To minimise financial risk, Guichot advocated for reducing the size of collections, increasing the number of permanents and updated products, and introducing new items to liven up the season. To protect margins in an inflationary environment, she called for optimising transport, energy and raw material costs and adjusting prices according to geographical zones.

Guichot further suggested improving the legibility of in-store collections by simplifying merchandising and working more closely with the residual rate (the residual value of a product being its value at the end of its useful life). In short, to have the right product, in the right place, at the right time, in the right quantities

Lesson no. 2: Be vocal and committed to reflect your creativity, authenticity and know-how

Guichot recommended communication that reflects the brand's values. To do this, don't hesitate to engage your community via social networks and innovate with unexpected campaigns, concepts and collaborations.

Lesson no. 3: Be locally relevant to adapt to market realities while maintaining your brand identity

For the director of SMCP, geographical diversity is a strength. This means adapting to the needs of each geographic market, through exclusive articles, capsules and an online presence (i.e. shop and social networks).

Lesson no. 4: Broaden your horizons by capturing the customer at every point of contact

Store-to-web, ‘clienteling’ (a marketing strategy based on actively building consumer loyalty), travel retail, cross-border, physical shops, market places, live shopping, D2C, social media shops are all "seamless" customer experiences to be worked on like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. "In absolute terms, each shop will make its own display," said the executive.

Lesson no. 5: Sell with passion and facilitate in-store operations to create a bond with the customer and strengthen the experience

Post-covid, the relationship with work has changed. Faced with this observation, Guichot suggested making working conditions more flexible, particularly weekend hours, and valuing sales staff by offering them career prospects and financial incentives.

On the consumer front, she advised creating an omnichannel pathway that integrates with incentive systems (stimuli) for customer retention by the salesperson. This involves reinforcing the sales ceremonial, particularly using silhouette recommendations, and putting to use new technologies to optimise the flow and operations to the benefit of the time offered to the customer (in other words, less handling and more services).

Note that SMCP has developed an adapted strategy: training of its sales teams at the SMCP School and deployment of the SMCP retail lab (workshop and studio).

Lesson no. 6: Integrate eco-responsibility organically into the business model

Here, we're talking about creating ever more responsible, quality and traceable products, joining the field of the circular economy (via second-hand, for example) and committing to diversity and inclusivity. The idea is that CSR is intrinsically linked with growth.

Lesson no. 7: Use technology to get to know your customers better and strengthen operations

Finally, no business without modern tools. This means investing in data to personalise the relationship with the customer, strengthening the foundations of retail and paying particular attention to new technologies to accelerate development. Guichot concluded by saying that in this day and age, there is no such thing as a priority investment: "everything has to be aligned".

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Isabelle Guichot